2020 NFL Free Agent Team/Fantasy Preview Division-by-Division (NFC East)
The free agent period is percolating and will be in full swing in mid-March. Prior to free agency, we’re going to take a quick overview look at each team and some of the player/fantasy ramifications looming.
We’ll look division-by-division at the various team CAP and contract and free agent situations…
Overview: The Eagles are middle/bottom half of the league in available CAP space today…approx. $39M of space. They have several key, aging players hitting free agency to decide on…PLUS they have a bunch of active, bigger contracts they cannot get out of -- they are kinda stuck with these players/deals.
To me, the Eagles current roster + free agents + current bigger contracts they’re locked into…it looks like one of the worst managed situations in the league. I’ve never been a fan of anything GM Howie Roseman’s done, and since he came back to the GM spot (after a Chip Kelly respite/demotion) this team’s overall roster and payroll looks terrible with bad draft after bad draft. If not for Nick Foles saving them a few years ago, against Roseman’s better judgement/he never liked or wanted Foles, this would be more a laughingstock team than division winner.
How this mess spawned a new Jets GM in 2019 and the new Browns’ GM in 2020…I have no idea. The Eagles are sitting on a fault line of issues in bad contracts with no real 2020 wiggle room + a suspect franchise QB + a general aging of the roster + several poor drafts lately – the ground may quake and create chaos in 2020, and leave management under the gun of a full scale earthquake going into 2021.
Big free agent names: Malcolm Jenkins ($10M+ club option), Nigel Bradham ($9M+ club option), Ronald Darby, Jason Peters…experienced players, team leaders/fixtures, guys getting older and expensive – do you bring them back for one more run or do you blow everything up and rebuild?
I suspect Philly will try to bring most of them back because the GM sees the writing on the wall and hopes the planets can align and the Eagles can make another playoff run.
Jordan Howard is a free agent as well…it will be interesting to see if they try to bring him back. I think Philly is so into their draft picks, overrated ones, that they will move away from talented players who might challenge their draft status guys. If so, Jordan Howard will walk because Miles Sanders is oh so important. Big mistake, but I think it might be coming.
Example of terrible scouting and contracts…Nelson Agholor is a free agent – a guy they paid $9M+ to play last season.
*Note – after I wrote the above, the Eagles declined to pick up Bradham. He’s now a true free agent.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: The Eagles need space to sign these veteran players and they do not have a lot of options to create CAP space.
Considering the money, they will likely keep Jenkins for $10M+ instead of cutting and taking a $6.1M hit. Bradham will make $9M+ but would cost $5M+ to cut. Both club options they will probably take (nope, Bradham released after I wrote that).
They cannot cut DeSean Jackson…$8.7M to play, $12.5M to cut this year. Talk about utterly stupid contract signings in 2019…
Most all of the top 10 contracts for Philly are upside down (cost more to cut than keep in 2020). The Eagles are stuck under the weight of all these bad or lopsided deals. This mediocre 2019 team is not aging well and will all likely be back for 2020 – I don’t know how they get any better in 2020, and then they are really hurting in 2021.
Again, how this management team spawned GMs for the Jets and Browns in the past 365 days…I have no idea, but it is ‘the Jets and Browns’. 2020 is Philly’s last stand and then they are in big trouble going forward and likely to undertake a massive rebuild in 2021 or 2022…with a GM who, to me, has been a disaster in making contracts and drafting.
Overview: The Cowboys have the opposite problem of the Eagles… Dallas has top 5 salary CAP space available (approx. $73M in space) and they have a much better/talent-rich roster with better contractual situations.
HOWEVER, Dallas has real players/talents who are free agents that they have to deal with. The Cowboys have a lot of space, but a lot of that space will go to their free agents.
Big UFA names: It’s an all-star team… Dak, Amari, Byron Jones – that’s on top of Robert Quinn, Michael Bennett, Randall Cobb, Sean Lee, Jason Witten, Jeff Heath, and their rostered kicker Kai Forbath.
I believe Dallas will sign all three top names. What? They are going to bypass them and go find better in free agency, and overspend? It makes too much sense to make a deal with Dak-Amari-Byron…and they will and thus take a lot of talent out of the potential free agent pool for the league.
Those ‘big three’ will take up half+ of their CAP space for 2020 potentially, and leave them as a bottom 10 CAP space team for available spending everywhere else but they don’t have a ton of holes to have to spend mass money on either, once they sign their own key three free agents.
They’ll hope to sign Quinn but probably lose/let walk Bennett, Cobb (not a fan of McCarthy), Lee, Witten, and Heath.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: Because the Cowboys, unlike their NFC East rival Eagles, are smart with contracts/deals – Dallas has no real contracts to cut/dump. Tyrone Crawford will be the lone dump or restructure…$8M to pay/play and $1M CAP hit to cut.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Overview: The Giants are top 10 in the league in available CAP space with $58M+ projected today. They don’t have a major free agent problem, but they do have a lack of talent issue. With the NFC East being so weak, one good free agency and draft could get them in the fight…but NYG will have issues recruiting players via GM Dave Gettleman, plus the disadvantage of the no-background-coaching-hire Joe Judge and his staff of recently fired head coaches, and the general vibe for the Giants…plus the NY cost of living/taxes.
The Giants have hope this offseason, but seeing their management team in place…don’t bet on it.
Big UFA names: This one name/situation tells you all you need to know why you should have no faith in Dave Gettleman…
Leonard Williams is a free agent…for some reason, the going-nowhere-Giants of 2019 traded for overrated Williams, gave up two picks for him and didn’t negotiate a new deal with him (if they liked him so much). They’ll probably compound the problem here by overpaying Williams to stay, just to show their trade wasn’t totally stupid (but it was).
Markus Golden is a free agent, and likely leaves since his biggest advocate isn’t there any longer (D-C James Bettcher). But, if NYG overpays, I’m sure he’ll stay. Not likely with the new staff, but we’ll see.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: The two cuts most likely to happen…Alex Ogletree (saves $8M+ CAP space), and the ridiculous Rhett Ellison contract (thank Pat Shurmur for that mess)…a $5M CAP savings.
The Giants have a bunch of money…they better get this right this year (I doubt it).
Overview: The Redskins are right near the top 10 for available CAP space today, approx. $49M in salary CAP space. They are shedding several overpriced, aging players this season (deals are up) and a little wiggle room to create some more space by cutting a few bad deals.
The Redskins’ main problem (besides Bruce Allen, but he’s gone now) is their top two highest paid players in 2020, as it sits now, didn’t play a snap in 2019…Alex Smith and Trent Williams. Getting a real return or getting exemption opens up even more space.
Big UFA names: There’s only one name to really worry about – OG Brandon Scherff. I’d believe the Redskins to make a proper deal with him, if he’s good with staying. The Redskins need to keep him in house, even if they have to tag him.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: Jordan Reed is gone…$10.3M to stay/play 2020 or $1.8M hit to release. That picks up $8M+ in extra space.
Tougher call on Ryan Kerrigan…cut for no hit or pay to play 2020 for $11.7M. I’d lean that they’ll either make a new structured deal or release him because they are not ‘one player away’ on that defense – and it’s a good/developing, young group but they probably get good as a unit just as Kerrigan is gone/declining.
The Redskins can be a sleeper NFC East winner if Trent Williams returns, Scherff is signed, deploy their decent CAP space well on the defensive side with 1-2 key pickups and get a veteran QB and bench Dwayne Haskins. Since that last one probably won’t happen…the Redskins are stuck in mud for 2020. Ron Rivera reunited with Cam could save the day here.
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